Most societies have their scars of history resulting from involvement in war and civil unrest or adherence to belief systems based on intolerance, racial discrimination or ethnic hostilities. A range of places, sites and institutions represent the legacy of these painful periods: massacre and genocide sites, places related to prisoners of war, civil and political prisons, and places of 'benevolent' internment such as leper colonies and lunatic asylums. These sites bring shame upon us now for the cruelty and ultimate futility of the events that occurred within them and the ideologies they represented. Increasingly, however, they are now being regarded as 'heritage sites', a far cry from the view of heritage that prevailed a generation ago when we were almost entirely concerned with protecting the great and beautiful creations of the past: reflections of the creative genius of humanitiy rather than the reverse - the destructive and cruel side of history. Why has this shift occurred, and what implications does it have for professionals practising in the heritage field? In what ways is this a 'difficult' heritage to deal with?
Places of Pain and Shame is a cross-cultural study of sites that represent painful and/or shameful episodes in a national or local community's history, and the ways that government agencies, heritage professionals and the communities themselves seek to remember, commemorate and conserve these cases - or, conversely, choose to forget them. Such episodes and locations include: massacre and genocide sites, places related to prisoners of war, civil and political prisons, and places of "benevolent" internment such as leper colonies and lunatic asylums.